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Cablegate: Ambassador's Farewell Call with Political Activist Nguyen

VZCZCXRO0292
PP RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #0846/01 2262112
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 142112Z AUG 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2991
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 2117
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3195

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000846

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SOCI PREL PGOV ECON VM
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S FAREWELL CALL WITH POLITICAL ACTIVIST NGUYEN
DAN QUE


HO CHI MIN 00000846 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: On August 7, Ambassador Marine met with Dr.
Nguyen Dan Que in Ho Chi Minh City to discuss the state of the
democracy and human rights movement in Vietnam as well as to
inquire after his health and treatment by the GVN since
publication in mid-June 2007 of his critical op-ed in the Asian
Wall Street Journal. Dr. Que said police surveillance has
increased and authorities continue to block his phone and
internet service. In spite of these difficulties, Que was
simultaneously uncompromising in his criticism of GVN's lack of
progress on human rights and hopeful about the democracy
movement in Vietnam, which he feels is being bolstered by
Vietnam's economic growth and global integration. The
Ambassador asked Dr. Que for his views on what the USG and
public should do in response to GVN actions and perceived human
rights violations. Dr. Que stated that more trade, more
fellowship and greater engagement are the keys to change in
Vietnam. End Summary.

DR. QUE DOING OK, STILL WITHOUT PHONE AND INTERNET
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (SBU) Dr. Que was able to attend the meeting with Ambassador
Marine at the Caravelle Hotel without interference from the
authorities and expressed appreciation to the Ambassador for his
efforts to promote better understanding and relations between
the United States and Vietnam. The Ambassador inquired about
Dr. Que's health and whether police surveillance and
interference with his activities has increased since he wrote a
highly critical op-ed carried by the Asian Wall Street Journal
(WSJ) just prior to President Nguyen Minh Triet's June 22
meeting with President Bush. Dr. Que said his health is good,
thanks in part to medication that his brother (prominent
Vietnamese American democracy activist Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan)
sends from the United States. He thanked the Ambassador for his
assistance in communicating with his family. Since his article
was published in the Asian WSJ, Dr. Que said his internet
service and telephone service have been blocked by GVN
authorities. Dr. Que says that police surveillance has also
increased now there are five secret police are stationed outside
his home. When Ambassador asked whether Que had any future
plans to visit the United States, Que said he still wished to
see his brother in Virginia but he is afraid the GVN would not
allow him to return to Vietnam afterwards.

DR. QUE CALLS TRIET VISIT A FAILURE
-----------------------------------

3. (SBU) Ambassador Marine noted that in the past six-to-nine
months, a number of activists have either been imprisoned or
detained and asked Dr. Que about the effect of the GVN dissident
crackdown on the democracy movement in Vietnam. Dr. Que said
the crackdown has forced the democracy movement to splinter into
smaller groups, knowing that if protesters were united they
would be easier to repress. Dr. Que said there are more
opportunities for simultaneous pressure on the GVN and all are
reacting against what Que called the "tyranny of the regime."
Que remarked the GVN talks about "people power" in public and in
the media, but in reality they have not made any concrete
changes in human rights policy.

4. (SBU) Dr. Que said that "everyone knows" President Triet's
visit to the United States was not a political success for
Vietnam. According to Dr. Que, the purpose of President Triet's
visit was to garner USG support for the GVN's political reform
plan and bring domestic and overseas Vietnamese communities
closer together. Que said that, instead of getting praise,
President Triet was reprimanded for GVN's human rights abuses by
President Bush and the U.S. Congress.

DEMOCRATIC CHANGE IS INEVITABLE
-------------------------------

5. (SBU) When the Ambassador asked Que about the pace of
democratic change in Vietnam, Que said internal change is
dependent upon democratic progress in places like the Middle
East, Africa and other parts of Asia. He noted the
establishment of the ASEAN Human Rights Committee was an
important sign of progress in Southeast Asia, and stressed that
economic investment, increased trade, and increased fellowship
will have the greatest impact on democratic change in Vietnam.
Dr. Que believes that Vietnam's younger generation has a
critical role in demanding freedom in Vietnam and that their
interests are no different from youth around the world.
Although younger Vietnamese seem outwardly accepting of social
conditions in Vietnam, they are actually fearful underneath, he
noted.

6. (SBU) When the Ambassador asked whether the Communist Party
would ever consent to sharing power in the government, Que said
he envisioned two paths of reform: either a change led by

HO CHI MIN 00000846 002.2 OF 002


powerful government and business leaders who desire property
rights reform in order to protect their newfound wealth, or
change led by "peasants and workers" adversely affected by
Vietnam's economic liberalization who then pressure the GVN for
better laws to protect their rights. In either case, Dr. Que
believes Vietnam must have clear and enforceable private
ownership laws to sustain economic growth. Que also emphasized
that the emergence of a rising middle class is a pre-condition
for political change in Vietnam. He is firmly convinced that
the WTO ascension will force the GVN to implement legal reforms
necessary to maintain economic growth and address social
inequities in Vietnam.

MORE ENGAGEMENT IS KEY
----------------------

7. (SBU) The Ambassador asked for Dr. Que's opinion about the
view held by some that the USG and the American public should
have less economic, social and political engagement with Vietnam
in light of GVN human rights policies. Dr. Que emphasized that
"more and more" trade, fellowship and economic engagement are
the keys to influencing change in Vietnam.

8. (SBU) The Ambassador encouraged Dr. Que to maintain contact
with the United States Mission, provided the contact did not
create additional problems with the GVN authorities. Dr. Que
quipped that, although surveillance has increased in recent
months, he no longer gets harassing phone calls since the
authorities disconnected his telephone. He also remarked that
after imprisoning him for 20 years, the GVN finally realized
their actions have had no effect on Que's activities or opinions
and so, for the most part, they have left him alone. After
taking his farewell with Ambassador Marine, Poloff escorted Dr.
Que to a nearby cafe where his son was waiting to take him home.

9. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi and
cleared by Ambassador Marine.
FAIRFAX

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